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Power of a Song: an Evening of Ballads, Courage and Hope

Erie, PA, March 12, 2010 --( The Erie Art Museum’s Contemporary Music Series presents The Power of a Song—An Evening of Ballads, Courage and Hope at the Erie Art Museum Annex, 411 State Street, on Thursday, March 25 at 7 p.m.

The concert, featuring an evening of poignant and stirring song, dance and folk music spanning three different continents, is in conjunction with the exhibit Making It Better: Folk Arts in Pennsylvania Today, currently on view at the Museum through April 11. The featured artists don’t coin themselves entertainers, but rather as keepers of important cultural traditions, which they articulate through performance. In this intimate and acoustic setting, guests will experience a very pure and moving form of African song and dance, Aztec dance, and Bosnian ballads.

The event is free, with $10 suggested donation, and open to the public. The performance is sponsored by Connoisseur Media.

About the Artists
Mensura Berberovic is a master of the ancient Bosnian ballad. Mensura says, “My songs are only about love – love of husband, of family, nostalgia for my country, and because they are pure love they are my weapon against genocide.” Born in Vlasenica, Bosnia, Mensura Berberovic fled the genocide of 1995 and came to the United States as a refugee, settling in Erie; she received her citizenship in May 2004. Her love of traditional Bosnian ballads moved her to create the first and largest Bosnia cultural event in North America, attracting Bosnians all over the US to share traditional dancing and singing sevdalinka. She said, “Under Communism it was against the law to sing many sevdalinka. My mother taught them to me anyway. Now I am here in the USA and I am free to sing them. If I can keep ten sevdalinka alive to another generation, then I have passed on a real treasure.”

Victoria Angelo and Marta Sam, also from Erie, are master singers, dancers, and drummers and share the music of the Acholi people of Uganda and Sudan. Their traditional songs and dances express the importance of peace and the heartbreak of war they have witnessed firsthand. Ancestral Acholi is in the borderland between southern Sudan and northern Uganda in Africa. Both Victoria Angelo and Marta Sam learned songs and dance at traditional gatherings when they were children. As Victoria says, “When people are married, we dance. When someone dies, we dance.” They continue their tradition because it communicates strong values, teaches their unique history, and keeps them physically fit. Acholi people do not sing or dance alone but as an entire community. Marta Sam says, “When I sing songs in my language, I feel like me. And when I have a backache, I dance and dance until I feel better.” Each has been dancing for over 30 years. Before coming to the US to escape the devastation of civil war in their homeland, both women were deeply involved with raising children in their large extended families. Working with infants and toddlers at an early childhood learning center in Erie, they find that young children love these traditional songs and dances. Not only do they build their language and motor skills, they also build classroom camaraderie. Marta and Victoria also use traditional songs to calm children down. The Acholi have very few generic lullabies. Instead, they draw from a full pharmacology of songs to soothe a feverish baby, ease stomach pain, or comfort a baby whose mother is away.

Brujo de la Mancha, a master at making clay flutes and whistles—which are on display at the Erie Art Museum’s Making It Better exhibit—will round out the program with three other Aztec dancers. “Brujo” literally means “wizard” in Spanish; and, as is evident in the work and art of Brujo de la Mancha, should be more broadly understood as a person who works with, and transforms through, healing powers. He says, “Wherever I go, I am always aware how my living culture is full of arts and spirituality. This awareness pushes me to keep working hard to identify ways to express to the public an indigenous perspective that is not always seen in our contemporary, or historical, society.” Using art, ritual, and ceremony, Brujo offers his Philadelphia community an opportunity to challenge the idea that all Mexicans share the same Spanish-based culture. For those who claim indigenous roots, hurtful social and economic policies did not end with colonial rule. Brujo plays this flute and whistle to accompany dances that powerfully act as tools for remembering native ancestors and heritage. Today he serves as artistic director of Ollin Yoliztli Calmecac, a Philadelphia-based group that works to reclaim Mexicayotl as a living culture.

About the Erie Art Museum
The Erie Art Museum anchors downtown Erie’s cultural and economic revitalization, occupying a group of restored mid-19th century commercial buildings, including an outstanding 1839 Greek Revival Bank. Currently under construction, the Museum’s $9 million building renovation and expansion project will create four major galleries, a number of smaller galleries, a 250-person multi-purpose performance space, a new unified entrance, and various visitor amenities. A grand opening is set for the fall of 2010.

The Museum maintains an ambitious program of 15 to 18 changing exhibitions annually, embracing a wide range of subjects, both historical and contemporary and including folk art, contemporary craft, multi-disciplinary installations, community-based work, as well at traditional media.

The Erie Art Museum also holds a collection of over 6,000 objects, which includes significant works in American ceramics, Tibetan painting, Indian bronzes, contemporary baskets, and a variety of other categories.

The Museum offers a wide range of education programs and artists’ services including interdisciplinary and interactive school tours and a wide variety of classes for the community. Performing arts are showcased in the 24-year-old Contemporary Music Series, which represents national and international performers of serious music with an emphasis on composer/performers, and a popular annual two-day Blues & Jazz Festival.

The Erie Art Museum is open Tuesday through Saturday from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Sunday from 1 to 5 p.m. Admission is free for members, free on Wednesdays, $4 for adults, $3 for senior citizens and students and $2 for children under 12.

For additional information on the Erie Art Museum, visit online at or call (814) 459-5477.

Contact Information
Erie Art Museum
Carolyn Eller

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